“Am I playing for the right team?”
I think that is the question that bothers me the most while working under student government at the University of Miami. Every time I walk into a meeting, I feel as if I am betraying the community of individuals I am supposed to represent. The lack of representation during the most important conversations being held on campus is unnerving. We, as members of the Student Government, make so many suggestions and changes about student life, but do not even begin to represent the diverse demographics of our own campus.
As people of color, we question why the most prominent student leaders on campus are white, but never analyze the vehicle that perpetuates this issue: the lack of melanin in Student Government.
The fact remains that Student Government exists as a premier, elite, white organization with quite an ambiguous mission statement. It’s one that despite my time and title in student government, I fail to completely understand in its entirety.
Now, undeniably, we as a black community must do better to infiltrate these spaces not inherently designed for us. We must continue to push and push until the barrier breaks. It will take more than the a few black individuals within Student Government to dismantle years of established, structural discrimination.
Change will require all of us to care more. It is noticeably evident that as black individuals we have lost interest in Student Government because of the very nature of the organization, and it is hard to blame us. But, we can do better.
We have the power to vote, yet most of us don’t know where to go to vote. I could guarantee that a majority of my brothers and sisters don’t know the faces of our elected leaders, and in their defense, an even larger portion of campus beyond us neglects school politics as a whole.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that we begin to direct our attention to these repositories of power, student government being one of them, and start to ask ourselves how we can force the system to consider us for once.
Changing the system also means delegating more power and recognition to our rising black organizations on campus– Freshman Leadership Academy, United Black Students, Planet Kreyol, African Student Union, the Caribbean Students Association, UMTV’s The Culture and more.
We can complain all we want. But, as a community, we can no longer voice our grievances from behind our phone screens without backing up our claims with direct action. We can start by electing representatives who look like us, fight for us and are with us in a bigger capacity than a photo op.
But, it will take us caring more about the politics and activities that transpire around us to enact any tangible change. It will take us being curious, demanding and insistent. The power behind a unified black front is unmatched in this world. It’s time to unearth that power and use it for our own sakes.
The student has asked to remain anonymous.